Court postpones review of Palm Hills case

An Egyptian court today adjourned until 1 March its review of a lawsuit calling for revoking the sale of land to an urban development project in New Cairo.

The plaintiff, Egyptian businessman Hamdi al-Fakharani, claims the contract, under which 960,000 square meters of land were assigned to a housing project belonging to Palm Hills Developments, should be rescinded.

Al-Fakharani filed his lawsuit against Egyptian Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, the Minister of Housing Ahmed al-Maghrabi, and the head of the Urban Communities Authority.

Al-Fakharani alleges the land was sold for less than market value.

Palm Hills Developments is one of the Egypt's major urban development companies. It owns 47.8 million square meters of land, mainly in Cairo and coastal areas along the Red Sea.

Al-Fakharani says the land was sold tax-exempt at LE250 per square meter and given unprecedented payment facilities, effectively squandering millions of pounds of state funds.

The lawsuit also states that Housing Minister al-Maghrabi owns a stake in Palm Hills Developments in violation of the Constitution, which stipulates that ministers may not purchase state land while in office.

The Supreme Administrative Court in September upheld a lower court ruling canceling the sale of 8000 feddans to the Talaat Mustafa Group’s (TMG) Madinaty project. That lawsuit was also introduced by al-Fakharani.

The TMG project was mired in a legal row when a court said the original deal was illegal because an auction did not take place, rattling investors who worried about the fate of other state land sales.

The government scrapped the original contract but said it would return the land to the company under a new deal on the same terms, based on its right to act in the national interest.


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